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The Vermont State Youth Council’s Trip to the State House

Members of the Council in the House Chambers.

On Jan 30th, members of the Vermont State Youth Council went to Montpelier to deliver the recommendations that they crafted over the past year to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and the Senate and House Committee on Government Operations. 

The Vermont State Youth Council was created by H.293 and is a diverse group of 28 youth from all over the state, with at least one representative of each county. Each member is part of a subcommittee and there are a total of five: Climate Change, Education, Equity and Anti-Racism, Youth Mental Health and Youth Voice. The heads of each committee attended on the 30th to present their group’s recommendations.

Mine and many other members of the committee’s day started early, mine at 5 a.m. I had to be in Berlin for our first meeting, which was with the Governor at 7:30. I began on the hour-and-a-half journey.

When I arrived I was the first person in the conference room with members of the Governor’s Cabinet trickling in over a half an hour period. Soon after everyone arrived, the governor entered the room, and we all stood. We quickly sat back down and began with our introductions. After introductions, we shifted into more informal presentations where the presenters were president from their seats. I was the first to present, followed by the Education subcommittee. Everyone finished their presentations in a timely manner, and then members of the cabinet asked questions that were specific to committee recommendations. 

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We soon boarded a bus that took us from Berlin to the State House, which was a nice and short ride. Arriving at the State House, we gathered our belongings and headed in. We had about an hour before we were to meet with Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman, and we used that time to do some schoolwork in the cafeteria. 

At 10:30 we arrived at Zuckerman’s office, which was a more informal but personal discussion about our recommendations. Zuckerman was extremely enthusiastic to hear youth voices, and that was reflected in how responsive he was. We gathered in a chair circle and bounced around to each subcommittee’s recommendations. Our meeting with Zuckerman went until 11:30, and then we went to lunch.

I was surprised by how small the lunchroom was in the State House and that there was such a shortage in seating, but luckily my group managed. While waiting in line for my food, I was surprised by the amount of activists that were petitioning within the building and outside the building. There was a group that was dressed as bees, advocating for the stop of certain pesticides within the state. Unfortunately, I was distracted and did not think to grab one of the State House cafeteria’s famous cookies. 

We quickly ate lunch and had time to meet with our local representatives and senators. I had the pleasure of meeting Representative Casey Toof. Toof gave me a tour around the State House, showing me the fossils within the marble tile floors and also showing me the House Chambers. After talking to Representative Toof for about 25 minutes, I got to speak with Representative Eileen Dickinson. Dickinson and I spoke about the importance of work ethics in addition to the need to support small state schools. 

Members of the council did interviews with different news stations, and then we visited the Senate Committee on Government Operations. After the meeting, I had the opportunity to speak with Senator Norris for a few minutes. We had to rush out of this meeting and immediately go to the House Committee on Government Operations, whose chair is Mike McCarthy. We presented it to the committee and soon it ended. I spoke with McCarthy briefly and had a good conversation with Representative Mark Higley. Though we had differing views on renewable energy sources, I appreciated his perspective. 

We ended our last meeting earlier than expected, so we had to wait a while for our bus to arrive. We used our free time to further venture into the State House, looking at the art on the walls and sitting in the House Chambers. Eventually, when the bus did arrive we boarded and headed back to Berlin to our vehicles after a successful, but long, day.

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About the Contributor
Cooper O'Connell
Cooper O'Connell, Editor-in-Chief
Cooper O’Connell is a junior at BFA, and this is his second year participating as an editor for The Mercury. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf, fishing and reading. He looks forward to taking a class specifically dedicated to journalism in the near future. Along with being in the journalism club, he enjoys being part of BFA's Interact Club.

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